04 May 2006

News: US Squad, Rooney, and Citeh - Arsenal

How about a quick trip around the news, followed by a brief preview of Citeh v. Arsenal? Sound good? Good!

Let's begin with the World Cup and the US team. Bruce Arena named the US squad yesterday. There are no huge surprises here; Arena likes stability and his squad reflects that. I was a bit surprised to see Brian Ching named, as I've not yet seen a match where he's impressed me. But somehow I suspect that Bruce Arena has a tiny bit more information than I do, and his success has earned a lot of trust.

Unfortunately, after naming Frankie Hejduk to the squad yesterday, Arena was promptly forced to replace him with Chris Albright. Hejduk suffered an injury on Saturday, and yesterday it was diagnosed as a torn ACL. He had played the remainder of the match and continued training too, before continued pain led him to the MRI room and a diagnosis. Horribly unfortunate timing on that, and Hejduk will be missed. Let's hope Albright can step up and show that he's earned his spot.

Meanwhile, England have until 9 May to decide whether Wayne Rooney can play in the World Cup. I don't understand how FIFA can just change rules around like this, but it's a common thing for the soccer federations (ask UEFA and Liverpool!) so I'll let it pass. Evidently Rooney has multiple fractures in his foot, which sounds grim. But Sven Goran-Eriksson is talking about taking Rooney even if he wouldn't be fit until the final, which is complete bollocks and demonstrates what a tool Eriksson is.

His time is limited however, and it appears that Steve McClaren is set to become the next manager for England. It's certainly not the worst choice. Middlesbrough's run in the UEFA cup makes him a media darling, which is all that the FA are looking for. Will he be a good manager? Uncertain. With England, his main challenge will be drawing superior performance out of extremely talented but ego-burdened players. Suffice to say, that's not been an issue at Boro. But I prefer McClaren to Curbishley or Allardyce. We'll see how it goes.

Arsenal are debating legal action against Dan Smith. I totally understand where they're coming from. My non-legal guess would be that they don't have a chance in hell of taking this forward. But the real problem is the lack of punishment from the FA. Their stupid rules mean that no further attention can be given to the issue. Without ranting more about it, I'll point you to Arseblogger's post which illustrates the idiocy with his usual delicate touch. He's got this one dead to rights; let's hope the FA wake up and realize it.

Arsenal of course travel to Manchester to take on Citeh today. Arsenal's injury situation changes daily. The good news today is that Ashley Cole is expected to start, and Mathieu Flamini is nearly ready and may be available today. In addition, Aleksander Hleb, Gilberto, Jose Antonio Reyes, and Freddie Ljungberg all return. The only new loss -- aside from Diaby -- is Emmanuel Adebayor, who's suffering from a sinus infection. Dennis Bergkamp and Gael Clichy are expected to be rested.

So again Arsene Wenger will shuffle the squad, balancing today's team against the Sunday finale with Wigan. I won't be surprised to see Thierry Henry rested for much of the game, after 72 minutes on Monday and with another match Sunday. City have been on a poor run of late, with a 1-0-4 record in April, the lone win coming at the expense of the skidding Aston Villa. No Arsenal fan can be sanguine about an away match in the Northwest, where the Gunners have suffered this season. Still, I'm convinced that a victory is in the cards today. Let's call it a comfortable 2-1 to the Gunners, with a late Citeh goal giving them consolation only.

A win brings the Gunners to within a point of Spurs, and it would bring a decent amount of pressure onto their shoulders. They'll face the derby with West Ham on Sunday, and I'm hopeful that the Hammers can nick a point. But we have to get three from City first. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

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